PHILADELPHIA — By firing coach Doug Pederson on Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles moved on from the only Super Bowl-winning coach in franchise history, less than three years after he accomplished the feat.
The memories of “Philly Special” and the Brandon Graham strip sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII are still fresh. So, too, is the image of Pederson hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy as confetti rained down on him in Minneapolis, and then the confetti replaced by beer cans during the parade in Philly a few days later, with Pederson casually snagging them out of midair one-handed from atop the float to the crowd’s delight.
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It is stunning the end of that era arrived so soon and so suddenly.
But the 2020 season was a disaster. The Eagles finished 4-11-1 and, more damaging for the overall health of the franchise, quarterback Carson Wentz regressed dramatically and was eventually benched. The relationship between coach and QB frayed; the offense lacked identity and finished toward the bottom of the league statistically; and the season ended in controversy following the decision to replace rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts with Nate Sudfeld during a competitive game against the Washington Football Team.
The ensuing meetings with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie over the past week did not produce a vision for the future that Lurie could get on board with, and here we are.
The move generates a host of new questions the organization needs to answer in earnest.
What does the Pederson firing mean for Wentz?
The odds Wentz remains in Philly have likely gone up. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently reported Wentz was planning to ask for a trade because his relationship with Pederson was fractured beyond repair. With Pederson no longer part of the equation, logic suggests there’s a greater chance of reconciliation between team and QB.
The incoming coach will likely influence how it plays out. If the new coach is a big fan of Wentz and the feeling is mutual, it could create a path for Wentz to return in 2021 and reestablish himself as Philadelphia’s franchise quarterback. If the coach isn’t particularly high on Wentz, or favors Hurts, then the need for Wentz to move on would crystallize for both parties.
Option A has plenty of upside from the Eagles’ perspective, as trading Wentz would lead to the biggest dead-cap hit in league history at more than $30 million and leave Philadelphia with fewer options at the position.
Tim McManus breaks down the Eagles firing of Doug Pederson and lays out head coaching candidates who could fill the vacancy.
Are the Eagles at a disadvantage by waiting to fire Pederson?
They are going to need to play some catchup. Interviews for the six other vacant head coaching positions have been ongoing since the end of the 2020 NFL regular season. The New York Jets, for instance, have interviewed at least eight candidates.
The good news for Philadelphia is none of the vacancies have been filled, so there is a full pool to draw from. And given Lurie’s frustration with the way things have gone this season, there is little doubt he has been doing his homework on candidates behind the scenes in case he and Pederson did not end up on the same page.
While the timing is less than ideal, the Eagles can still land a good head coach.
Who are the Eagles’ likely candidates?
Lurie is hungry for an innovative offense and values coaches who have quarterback expertise. Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll checks both boxes. The work of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and Carolina Panthers coordinator Joe Brady this season could also lead to interest.
Lurie values the opinion of former Eagles coach Andy Reid and could look once again to Reid’s coaching tree for a winner. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach/pass game coordinator Mike Kafka, who was a backup QB in Philadelphia like Pederson once upon a time, are the two most likely options on the Chiefs’ staff.
Some believe the Eagles will make a run at Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley. He coached Hurts at the college level, has majored in the QB position and is said to have a strong relationship with Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. It would probably take big money to lure Riley out of Norman, but they might view it as a wise investment.
Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley deserves consideration, too. He has the respect of everyone in the organization, can command a room and has a deep knowledge of multiple offensive systems, having been a part of three different coaching staffs during his time in Philadelphia.
Is this a desirable job?
The Eagles have a winning track record dating to the Reid days (1999 to 2012) and an engaged owner in Lurie. They also have two pretty good quarterback options to choose from in Wentz and Hurts.
But they’re currently projected to be more than $70 million over the 2021 salary cap. Philadelphia will be moving on from a good amount of proven veterans this offseason, and it’s questionable whether there’s enough young talent on the roster to keep things afloat. Some could also view the quarterback situation as a controversy, and headache, waiting to happen.
Roseman has control over personnel, and if Lurie intends to keep it that way, the incoming coach would have to be comfortable with that power structure already in place.